The trees… They used to walk you know. Across the land they roamed, over tall mountains, under deep canyons, beneath great lakes even. Drawn they were to the whims of a sun that could never sit still, forever rising, forever falling.
O’Mighty star, they implored. Won’t you be still and grant us reprieve? For we are weary of eternal march, trek, and quest. The sun who had heard their pleas grinned and acquiesced. Slowly it drifted to a halt, suspending motion and flight for as far as the eye could see. The trees, exasperated yet rejoiced, fell into an immense slumber, eager to rest and feed.
Eons had passed and the sun remained still; a drop in a bucket within one lifetime but a thousand generations in another. The trees had wedded themselves to the ground for their roots dug deep and their trunks grew tall. Asleep they all were when the destined day arrived and the sun imperceptibly moved. Little by little it accelerated, regaining the flight it once had ages yonder. And so the slumbering trees woke up to a frosty dew and a new witness. Day and night had been born.
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Avalon’s gardens held a unique attraction. Every fall, the old caretaker would hang lanterns filled to the brim with delicious seeds, grains, and nuts. Birds of all varieties would take a detour from their annual migration to visit Avalon and enjoy the respite. Such had been the case for generations that they eventually referred to the garden as paradise, the land of bounty, song, and rest.
One season however, the lanterns turned empty. The caretaker, in old age and poor health, was bed-ridden and had fallen into a deep coma. Sensing the time was near, the birds one by one perched on top the lanterns to mourn the caretaker’s passing. Some recounted the time they first met their loved ones within the garden cloisters. Others spoke of distant homes and their long journeys to the outer terrace. Those who had personally met the caretaker hummed a requiem into the night. Alas, when no more chirps could be uttered and further lamentations spent, the caretaker took a final breath, grinned, and then vanished.
From that day onward, the lanterns of Avalon would be everflowing.
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The first stroke fell on air, cutting an ocean from out of the sky.
The second stroke tore across water, carving a shoreline without beginning and end.
The third stroke sculpted the earth, arranging forms from an infinite variety.
The fourth stroke ignited into fire, imbuing spirits with movement and life.
The final stroke pierced through time, resetting the world for a new brush to try.
The mirror cracked into a hundred pieces as the Countess tried to look herself in the eye. Behind her stood two young girls, both entranced from having caught a glimpse of her visage before the sound of glass shattering. Their eyes couldn’t help but fixate with envy on such beauty that turned brother against brother, husband against wife, King against Queen. As she turned to face them, the first girl began to quiver. Unable to break free of her gaze, envy turned into self-loathing as the girl’s eyes transformed from a lucid marble to a grey stone. The second girl who averted the gaze at the last moment turned envy into malice. Brandishing a dagger to stab the Countess, the blade transformed into a snake and betrayed the wielder. Afterwards, the Countess would never try to see her reflection again.
A shooting star fell from the heavens. Locked away within its core, an immortal spirit dreamt of the world below. The dreams however did not belong to her but to the men, women, and children who bore witness and wished upon the burning effigy. Legends say that if many wishes were one and the cause righteous, she would remember the dream and grant it, trading her immortality and reborn a saint.
In a proto-marketplace, the four elements debated over the future currency.
“Fire releases energy in all things. We should all trade in units of heat exchanged”, exclaimed Fire in a heated voice.
Water, who held a prior grudge against fire responded, “Nonsense! All you do with that energy is feed yourself. Try turning that into work for a change.”
“I’d like to see how Water, who always takes the path of least resistance, gets any real work done”, retorted Fire, who started to fume.
Earth, with its grounded voice then spoke, “Now now gentlemen. No need to blow hot steam. We all know that currency should neither dissipate nor sit idly. It must be parceled into measurable pieces and conveniently distributed. Air can do my deliveries.”
Air who overheard her name chimed in, “I would if Earth didn’t flake at the slightest wind of uncertainty. Besides, why should there even be a currency. Can’t we all just share that which is plainly around us all?”
The three other elements groaned in unison and the debate continued until a man showed up. Eyeing each element, he took a handful of Earth and washed away the dirt with Water to leave behind some ore. Placing the ores into Fire, the pieces smelted, leaving behind precious metals. The metals were then molded into discs and engraved with a signature as they slowly cooled in open Air. Thus, coinage was borne.
A wooden chalice hung as a mantelpiece atop a throne room. In times of drought, the chalice poured everlasting water. In times of famine, it produced handfuls of grains. However, the great bounty that the chalice gave could only be matched by the sacrifice required. That is, human blood kept the wood from turning to stone. The thief, who found the goblet amidst ancient burial tombs, warned the King of its inscription: “Beware of those who give gifts freely”. The advice was duly noted and the kingdom continued its usual business until the Great War.
The Great War taxed the kingdom and its people to its outermost limits. The human toll on all sides amassed as food and water dwindled. Discontent filled the atmosphere as talks of revolution mixed with pangs of thirst and hunger. The king, now in dire straits, started to blood-let the population, feeding both the chalice and the citizens. At first, the water and food satiated the masses as a drug would before gripping its victim in withdrawal. Within a month, the pangs returned with twice the ferocity with a new compulsion for blood. The revolution would soon turned into bloodbath as the kingdom slowly fed itself to the vessel.
By the end of the king’s reign, the chalice had grown in size of a cauldron. Its top now sealed, the artifact appeared more like a cocoon, incubating some unspeakable malice within. The throne now its cradle, a new inscription appeared along its side: “Rejoice for those who take gifts freely”.